what beliefs do you hold onto too strongly?

words & photo by Brian Thompson.

when you hear the word fundamentalist, you probably think of right-wing religious zealots, people so consumed by their faith they’re blind to anything that contradicts their beliefs, people who are so completely lost in their point of view that they'll even defend it with violence. their opinions are so rigid and extreme they’re not only willing to hurt others, but they're also willing to sacrifice themselves.

we think they’re crazy for trusting in a mere belief so intensely — but, are we much different?

in one way or another, we’re all fundamentalists. we all have beliefs that we hold to be true. perhaps our fundamentalism isn’t religious in nature, but we all have unwavering opinions we refuse to be swayed from. there are certain things we simply won’t waver from, even if there’s no proof to support our claim. we plant our feet and stand firm saying, “i don’t care what you think or what you say, this is simply what i hold to be true and nothing will ever change it.”

we believe our opinion is fact and we scoff at any opposing opinion.

maybe you worship at the alter of Apple and think anyone who uses Windows is a fool. you are a Mac fanatic, a fundamentalist of sorts, and you taunt anyone who might use something different.

perhaps the only music you listen to is indie rock and you relentlessly mock anyone who listens to anything else.

maybe you’re a staunch atheist who not only loathes religion, but who also loathes anyone who might believe in one.

maybe you’re a hardcore fan of a sports team who wears their jersey (your religious robes) on every game day, and you find yourself continually getting into arguments with people who support other teams, “no way pal, my team is the best!”

perhaps you’re such a flag waving patriot for your country that you don’t even realize how fundamentalist you are in your very own nationalistic belief, “we’re number one! we’re number one!”

the truth is however, that whatever we believe there will always be a different way to consider things. there will always be many more points of view we’ve never thought of, and many more facts which we’ve never revealed. things are never as they seem. they are never absolutely black or white, there's only the shades in between.

the things we hold to be absolutely true are often the very same things we’re most clueless about. when we trust our opinions so implicitly, we close the door to truth. we lock ourselves inside a prison of our own misguided beliefs and lack of understanding.

just because you believe in something doesn’t make it true. we need to be open and receptive to having our beliefs changed.

“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
— William Shakespeare

if you recognize that a thought of yours is merely an opinion (which truly everything is), then you should also recognize there are infinite other opinions that exist as well. if your belief is a statement of taste, then recognize it as such and don’t be so aggressive in its defence. when it comes to a person’s taste, there is no right or wrong. you are no different than anyone else, you each have a preference, you each have a taste that is true for you.

whatever it is that you’re a little fundamentalist about, your strict attachment to it is dangerous and it will eventually come to harm your overall well-being. the tighter you hold onto something the more painful it is to defend or protect. the deeper your attachment is, the more you will suffer when it is threatened, the more pain you will feel when it fades, and the more aggressive you will come to its defence.

your attachments put you into a primal mind-state of fight or flight.

for proof of this ugly nature of attachments in everyday life, we only need to look at the upset that a hockey, football or soccer fan has when their team suffers either a loss or an injustice during the game. many fans lose their minds and fly off into a fit of rage. the stomp their feet and throw things at the wall, while the fanatics yell and scream and cause fights with opposing fans. in fact, they might even resort taking to the streets to riot in protest.

these are fundamentalists, with no religion required.

it’s ok to have beliefs, but let others have theirs as well. as long as someone’s morals, ideals, beliefs, or opinions don’t encroach upon peace, human decency, or cause undue suffering or harm, then don't let what others believe upset you. let them believe whatever they choose. it’s their life, it’s their journey. if they are truly wise, eventually their beliefs will one day change.

take a look inward. what are you a fundamentalist about? what can you loosen your mental grip from? what belief do you hold onto too strongly?

the fewer attachments you have, the happier you will be — with fewer beliefs, opinions and possessions to defend, the easier it is to be joyful, calm and carefree.

“As individuals we, too, have plenty of fundamentalist tendencies. We use them to comfort ourselves. We grab on to a position or belief as a way of neatly explaining reality, unwilling to tolerate the uncertainty and discomfort of staying open to other possibilities. We cling to that position as our personal platform and become very dogmatic about it.”
— Pema Chodron